THE MONGOLIAN ROAD TRIP
When two weeks ago I've mentioned about going off the map, I've had no idea! My limits have been found and pushed, while Majka is happy beyond words that we are back to a land of showers and asphalt roads. I think she's really angry with me because I've promised her a shower every day or at least every other day, but for now she's all smiling and forgiving. Ticking bomb if you're asking me and I think we're about to find another limit... But here's the other side of the coin. Our itinerary followed by a day by day journal.
DAY 1: At 8.30 in the morning our driver Bago exclaimed 'Ready!' and that's how it started. Doljmaa seen us out and checked one last time that we have all the essential survival equipment. Korean military sleeping bags, tent and very basic cooking equipment. Bago was our driver just for the first day. A short and very happy fellow with a laughter that comes naturally to him, but I wouldn't be able to master in 1000 years.
Just 30 minutes on the road, past the first hill, all signs of civilisation have disappeared and a vast grassland dotted with gers opened up ahead of us with a road straight as arrow heading west. At around 3 in the afternoon our car turned right and off to a dirt road. We drove for another hour and eventually pulled up behind 4 gers in the middle of a grassland surrounded from three sides with rocky hills. One of the gers had a solar panel on the left and a satellite dish from the right. Dodo, a herder nomad, lived here with his wife and three children. He got to be our host for the night and what a night it was! Seems unbelievable to me that a family is willing to shelter and feed strangers even if not for free, the bill is symbolic, and often small gifts are sufficient. We have been offered tea and snacks followed by dinner. Later we've played games and drunk Vodka. What followed was an 80's Disco on the front of their ger, music playing from the other drivers Russian van and about a 150 head goat herd following our 'party' from just few meters away... and more Vodka of course. Unfortunately after many shots of Vodka I still remember more than I care to admit...
DAY 2: My alarm went off at 8am. I went to a toilet about 100m east from our gee, a 3 metre hole in a ground with 2 planks of wood over it and shielded from 3 sides. A bit uncomfortable, but undoubtedly a toilet with the best view I've ever been to.
After we did the most of morning hygiene we possibly could given the circumstances, we have swapped drivers. Ulzii with his Russian made 'UAZ' disco machine will be our driver and guide. Our travel companions are Sandrine and Ben from France. The 5 of us will share the next 14 days, whatever these days may bring.
Soon we are on the road and except of a few pee breaks and a lunch break he drives through excruciating dust roads for 10 hours straight, until we arrive at White Lake. We stay in a ger camp. Gers are not as nice as the one from last night, but the scenery makes up for it. We have a quick dinner and when I next walk out of our ger, my jaws dropped from seeing so many stars. No light pollution at all, just pitch dark. Been a while when I've seen our Milky Way the last time. Magical...
DAY 3: Today I woke up sick. So did our driver. Feverish and weak. Couldn't even have breakfast. I shouldn't have stayed out under the sky so long. Nights are very cold already. Now I'm paying for it. Thankfully we have another day and night scheduled at White Lake, which I've spent in the bed, except when we went to wash our clothes and ourselves in the freezing waters of the lake. Thank god for the warm sun, but the temperature is below 20C and the water is freezing cold. Not the kind of thing I would normally do when ill. After 'shower' I rest while Mariola explores the shore. Of course she took care of me... ...a little...
DAY 4: I woke up feeling much better, but Ulzii is hopelessly searching for a pharmacy on a Sunday morning. Breakfast, quick wash and off we go. 8-9 hours straight, stopping only for lunch and pee breaks, we arrive at Telmen Lake. Is about 6 in the afternoon and Ulzii informed us we need to move soon to find us a family to stay with. First time on our journey we don't have an arranged place. A bit disappointing to look at a lake for 10 minutes after driving whole day, but this is the price we need to pay in order to get to our destination for the weekend of 19.-20.September.
After a short break we are back in the Russian UAZ driving the endless dirt roads of Mongolia. It is getting dark and we need a miracle to find a nomad family that will take us in for the night. We are lucky. The first place we stop at is an actual building that normally serves as a clinic for nomad families. We are sheltered in the largest room which I suspect serves as both, waiting room and ordinary.
Mongolian cuisine of half cooked mutton meat and noodles is starting to get to us so we opt for instant noodles. Soon after the 4 of us and the driver populate the free floor space and are off to sleep. The nights are cold, but tonight we have the luxury of the brick walls and Korean military sleeping bags...
DAY 5: Today we were close to push another limit. I think there is some ass kicking coming my way.
Woke up at 8, breakfast, quick wash, pack and left around 9. Ulzii is still not at he's best. We are stopping just 2 hours into our drive what is quite a relief for our backs. He finds a pharmacy and comes back showing a syringe and a big dose of calcium in his palm and then goes off again and doesn't show for half an hour. Is 12.20pm when he comes back signalling that he had received his medicine and now we need to eat and drink tea. Lunch it was... Once we were on the move again we have not stopped for hours. Dirt roads, bumps, dust, speeding through the steppes of wild Mongolia I would have never thought I will be asking for a piece of asphalt. Even the nomad gers seem to be giving in numbers. With only 2 stops we arrive at Khyrgas Lake in the late afternoon. Unlike the other days it was very windy and cold. We pull u